News/Media Center

July 21, 2003

Exercising is healthy choice that can help control costs
- by Ralph H. Weber, M.D., Vice president, medical affairs, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas

For most Kansans, each new day offers us the opportunity to improve our overall health simply by choosing to make exercise part of our daily routine.

Inactive lifestyles can lead to illness and chronic diseases that cost our country billions of dollars in health care costs each year. Kansans who don’t engage in regular physical activity are at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, diabetes, obesity, arthritis and osteoporosis. On a national level, the total health care cost related to these conditions is more than $600 billion a year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 32 percent of Americans achieve the recommended level of regular physical activity necessary to maintain a basic level of fitness. Closer to home, the number of Kansas who said they don’t have a leisure time activity jumped by 10 percent between 1992 and 2000, reports the Healthy Kansans 2000 initiative. That negative trend is something we need to reverse if we want to live healthier lives and control the rising cost of health care.

Fortunately, each of us has the power to reduce health care costs by exercising every day. Regular physical activity – just 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily – can improve your health and help control the rising cost of health care for everyone.

There are many ways you can increase your physical activity. For example, walking is an easy and inexpensive way to exercise. Or, check with your local community center, senior center, school or church for free or low-cost exercise classes and athletic activities. When faced with the choice between stairs or an elevator, consider taking the stairs. Take advantage of nice weather and take care of an errand with a brisk walk rather than a car ride. Swimming and biking are healthy options, too.

Regular physical activity is important for every member of your family. The healthy habits children learn at an early age will remain with them throughout their lives. Unfortunately, many of today’s children are developing bad habits. The CDC reports that more than one-third of young people in grades 9-12 do not regularly engage in vigorous physical activity, yet 43 percent of students in that same age group report watching more than two hours of television each day.

Children often learn by example, so if they see the adults in their lives making exercise part of their daily routine, they will likely do the same.

Keep in mind that if you have a chronic health condition or haven’t seen your health care provider in some time, you should talk with your doctor to find the best way to add physical activity to your daily routine.

The benefits of regular physical activity are many – we look better, we feel better, our health improves. When it comes to the cost of health care, your choices make a difference.

 

Ralph H. Weber, MD, is vice president of medical affairs for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. He spent 10 years in private practice in Salina before joining the health insurer in 1988. He was promoted to vice president in 1990.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCBSKS is the state's largest health insurer, serving all Kansas counties except Johnson and Wyandotte.